Peter Kafka

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EMI Sort Of Launches Its Own Music Portal

EMI Music Group has launched, which is supposed to be…. I’m not sure, exactly.

The company says the site is emphatically not supposed to be another MusicNet or PressPlay, the two unenthusiastic yet very expensive attempts the big labels made at creating their own portals in the wake of the original Napster.

So what is it? The site wasn’t scheduled to go live until 4 a.m. New York time, but it popped up earlier this evening and I gave it a quick spin. (Click to enlarge images.)

Based on that very cursory look, I think it’s meant to be a cleaner, in-house version of sites like MySpace Music and iMeem. Those sites offer streaming music, music videos and the opportunity to buy songs via affiliate deals with Apple (AAPL) or Amazon (AMZN).

Once it’s really up, that is. EMI says the site is in beta, but that’s generous. U.S. users can only listen to 30-second clips. U.K. users can listen to entire songs. But only ones from EMI’s catalog–which are the only songs that appear to be on the site, anyway.

There’s also a rudimentary discovery engine, and it appears as if the site will eventually direct would-be buyers to 7Digital, a U.K.-based iTunes and Amazon competitor.

The press release, which I’ve reprinted below, describes the site as a “learning lab.” I guess there’s nothing wrong with that–and the company has more pressing issues than a Web site launch. But I don’t understand the point of putting up something this raw.

LONDON, 17 DECEMBER 2008 — EMI Music today announced the launch of its new website, The site provides options for fans to discover new music and rediscover their favorite musicians. It also gives artists another platform to showcase their music and videos. is one of many ways EMI Music will experiment with new digital platforms in order to develop a deeper understanding of how consumers interact with and experience music online.

“ is designed to be a learning lab. It will help us gain even more knowledge about consumers’ preferences and choices. Those insights will be invaluable to our artists, helping them respond to fans in a more relevant way,” said Alex Haar, Vice President of Digital Special Projects at EMI Music. “This is the beginning of a longer term experiment. In the coming months, we will continue to add content and features to the site.”

This launch of is the first step in a process to better test and learn from the consumer experience. As of today, will house a range of information about EMI artists, such as music, videos, photos, biographies and discographies. Fans in the U.K. and U.S. can listen to their favorite songs (in full or in 30 second segments, respectively), watch videos and create playlists. The discover feature of the site helps fans search for tailored music recommendations, by entering artists’ names, including those of non-EMI artists.

Future features, such as the ability to create widgets or to purchase music, will be added to the site in ways that will enable the company to test different values of increasing consumers’ music experience. The site will also be home to free special and unique content from EMI artists, such as interviews, concerts and back-stage visits.

Shamsa Rana, Managing Director of Imdad Capital Ltd., was responsible for designing and implementing Rana also brought in a digital media company, Perform, which built the site.

“With, we wanted to build a site that provides a simple, user-friendly experience,” said Rana. “A focus on the fan and passion for the user experience is critical in today’s digital landscape, and that’s exactly what we worked to achieve with”